The Best Honing Steels to Keep Your Knives Razor Sharp, According to Chefs

Maintain your knife’s precious edge between sharpenings with our top picks.

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Best Honing Steels for 2023

Food & Wine / Marcus Millan

Honing with a honing steel or rod is part of regular knife maintenance that keeps your blade in tip-top shape between sharpenings. Some may not know that the handle that comes with your knives doesn’t actually sharpen them. Rather, it helps realign the blade of your knife. If you were to look at the edge under a microscope, you’d seen tons of bends and knicks in the metal. This comes from regular wear and tear but, over time, makes the blade feel dull and, if unattended, can damage your blade. 

If you don’t know if your knife needs honing, think about how much pressure is required to cut with it. A sharp knife should sail through various foods, especially notoriously stubborn things like tomato skins or julienne carrots.

So if honing doesn’t actually sharpen your knife, what’s the difference between the two? “Regular honing keeps the blades sharp without having to break out a sharpening stone and oil," says celebrity chef Robert Irvine of Food Network’s Dinner Impossible, Worst Cooks in America, and more. "Running a blade against the grooves of a honing steel brings [the edge] back into alignment, giving you a sharper blade and cleaner, safer cutting without a lot of effort."

Ready to start taking care of your knife? Read on for our trusted picks for any knife and cook.

Best Overall

Henckels Classic Precision 10-inch Honing Steel

Henckels Classic Precision 10-inch Honing Steel


Pros: We loved this steel for its versatility and smart design. 

Cons: This honing steel is heavier than most.

Zwilling JA Henckels is one of the most trusted brands for kitchen knives, so it’s no surprise that they’re honing rod is the best on the market. This steel took our number one spot because of its versatility — it’s perfect for most cooks. At 10 inches, it’s ideal for most chef’s knives for home cooks and isn’t too large to easily control and navigate, though it is heavier than most other steels. The satin finish is soft enough to accommodate more delicate steel knives and still strong enough to push an edge back into place. The handle is thoughtfully designed with a large crossguard, and it even has a metal loop so you can hang it to store instead of clogging up precious drawer space. 

Price at time of publish: $35

  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Rod length: 10 inches
  • Weight: 15.6 ounces
  • Care instructions: Dishwasher safe, handwash recommended

Best Value

Winware by Winco 12-Inch Sharpening Steel

Winware Stainless Steel Sharpening Steel, 12-Inch


Pros: This steel is a good deal for longer knives, and we like its thick grooves. 

Cons: The handle design can be uncomfortable to hold. 

This 12-inch steel is the most bang for your buck with its large size and low price tag. If you have longer knives, this is a great choice. The stainless steel rod is thick and durable, giving precision honing without much wear and tear. The grooves are thick, so you need fewer passes to realign your blade. The handle has a hole cast into the plastic for easy storage, but it can be uncomfortable to hold since the hole is on the part your hand wraps around. 

Price at time of publish: $17

  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Rod length: 12 inches
  • Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Care instructions: Wipe with a damp towel

Best Splurge

Global Honing Rod 10-inch

Global Honing Rod 10-inch


Pros: We love the oval design of this steel, including its ergonomic handle design.

Cons: The diamond coating is efficient, but it’s not suitable for all knives. 

Unlike the typical style of honing steels, the shape of the rod is a thick oval. This gives the advantage of more surface area for the knife’s edge to be in contact with and more thorough honing. Combined with the diamond coating, this steel makes your knives feel good as new with just a few passes. The tradeoff is that the grit of the diamond coating is very coarse, so it isn’t suited for softer steel knives. The grip on this handle is exceptional, Global is known for its unique handles, and this takes it a step further with extra grippy material and a thick crossguard. 

Price at time of publish: $190

  • Material: Ceramic, diamond, stainless steel
  • Rod length: 10 inches
  • Weight: 18.88 ounces
  • Care instructions: Handwash only

Best Diamond

Wusthof 10-Inch Diamond Sharpening Steel

Wusthof 10-Inch Diamond Sharpening Steel


Pros: This is the best diamond steel because it’s suited for the widest variety of knives and slightly sharpens while honing. 

Cons: The fine diamond coating can come off over time and create bald spots. 

Diamond steels are super efficient, and from a trusted brand like Wusthof, this steel is the best diamond on the market because it essentially sharpens and hones simultaneously, which is great if you don’t have the time to devote to more regular sharpenings. Sakari Smithwick, chef and Owner of Nobel Promise and recent competitor on Hell’s Kitchen, always recommend diamond steels. “This is much more abrasive on your blade,” he says. “It's not for everyday use, and it's actually more of sharpening steel than honing steel.” 

The diamond coating on this steel is extra fine and provides almost a polishing effect that gently restores your edge without the risk of pulling off too much metal. However, the disadvantage of the fine grit coating is that it can wear away more quickly and create bald spots on this steel that can lead to uneven sharpening. 

Price at time of publish: $79

  • Material: Diamond, stainless steel
  • Rod length: 10 inches
  • Weight: 10 ounces
  • Care instructions: Handwash recommended

Best Ceramic

Messermeister Ceramic Rod Knife Sharpener

Messermeister 12” Ceramic Sharpening Rod - Knife Sharpener - Fine 1200 Grit - Ceramic Core, Large Sharpening Surface & Soft-Grip Handle


Pros: We love the extra durability and versatility of this honing steel. 

Cons: The extra long length makes this steel challenging to store. 

Ceramic steels can be extremely hard yet brittle, but this Messermeister model is highly durable due to its solid core. You get the benefits of super-hard ceramic without its faults. This rod's finish differs from other ceramic steels: Its satin texture utilizes an ultra-fine grit that relies on the ceramic’s rigid structure to realign your edge with just a few swipes. You won’t find the traditional lines and ribbed texture, which makes this rod more forgiving if you’re new to the fluid motion necessary to hone your knife correctly. Including the handle, this steel is almost 17 inches long, making it very difficult to store and challenging to use if you have a smaller knife. The unwieldy length also makes it tougher to control. 

Price at time of publish: $35

  • Material: Ceramic 
  • Rod length: 12 inches 
  • Weight:  10.5 ounces
  • Care instructions: Handwash only

Best for Japanese-Style Knives

Shun Classic Combination 9-Inch Honing Steel (DM0790)

Shun Classic Combination 9-Inch Honing Steel (DM0790)


Pros: This steel's combination style and unique handle design make it perfect for Japanese-style knives. 

Cons: This steel is too small for knives over 8 inches. 

Shun is arguably the biggest name in Japanese-style knives, so it’s no surprise that they make the perfect steel for Japanese-style knives. This steel is a combination steel, meaning one half has the classic ribbed texture, and the other is smooth steel, perfect for daily and weekly maintenance. Japanese-style knives are usually made of harder steel than many Western-style knives, and so long as your knife has a 50-50 bevel and is not sharpened at an angle, this steel is the perfect fit. The crossguard also doubles as an angle guide, so you know exactly where to line your knife up every time to preserve the blade as much as possible. The only flaw in this steel is its length — it’s only 9 inches, which is only suited for 7 or 8 inches chef’s knives and smaller utility knives. 

Price at time of publish: $50

  • Material: Stainless steel
  • Rod length: 9 inches
  • Weight: 8.2 ounces
  • Care instructions: Handwash only

Our Favorite 

The Henckels Classic Precision 10-inch Honing Steel is our favorite because it hits the perfect medium on all the critical metrics. If you have a Japanese-style knife, we recommend reaching for the Shun Cutlery Classic Combination Honing Steel for its unique combination finish. 

Factors to Consider

Steel length

The length of the steel depends on the size of your most used knife. Some chefs’ knives are around seven inches, while others can get up to 10 inches or more. Most sit at about the 8-inch mark, but if you have a larger or smaller knife, look for a steel that is proportional to it. Some steels can be too long and difficult to store, so consider your drawer space when deciding how long you want them to be. 


Most honing rods are made out of stainless steel. It’s durable and versatile since it works on most knives. Diamond and ceramic are also popular. Both materials have tiny abrasive pieces on the surface that remove some material on the blade. These require fewer passes to sharpen effectively and give a more precise edge. Diamond, in particular, requires only a few passes and takes some material off the blade, similar to sharpening. 

Safe Crossguard

Honing your knife can be scary at first, especially if you choose to hone with your steel upright and pull the blade towards you. No matter how you use your steel, it’s crucial to be as safe as possible. One feature of the steel that helps keep your hands safe is the crossguard. Different models have different sizes and shapes, but plastic and rubber are generally the safest materials as they’ll catch on your blade if it slides off. You also want to look for a larger crossguard or one that flares out to offer more protection for your hand.

Frequently Asked Questions
  • What’s the difference between honing and sharpening?

    Put most simply, honing is realigning the blade, while sharpening is creating an edge. "The edge of a kitchen knife is made up of thousands of tiny metal fibers,” says chef Irvine about the distinction and importance of honing. “Regular use of the knife will misalign these fibers, and it will eventually begin to dull the edge and cut poorly. However, unless you banged a divot into the blade, it probably doesn’t need a sharpening stone — which actually shaves away metal fibers to create a fresh surface on the blade — it just needs some honing.”

  • How do you use honing steel?

    Fred Frederick, Bladesmith and Founder of FF Knives, is passionate about properly caring for his knives. “In TV and movies, we’re all familiar with a chef whipping their knife back and forth over a steel in the air with a flourish, but I don’t recommend it," he says. "Instead, hold the rod by the handle, place the tip down against a cutting board or surface where it’s not likely to slip, and pull the blade across the cylinder, tip away and edge down toward you at roughly its sharpening angle. Then flip it edge up and repeat. If you are regularly honing, 8-10 passes should do it. Start with firm pressure, decrease with every set of strokes, and by the last pass, it should just be the weight of the knife on the rod.” 

    When honing, it’s also essential to make sure you’re holding your knife correctly. Firmly grip it at the base of the blade and pinch the blade between your thumb and the side of your index finger, just like you would to use it. If you’re nervous about honing, start slow at first until you feel more comfortable with the motion.

  • What type of steel is best for honing?

    What steel works best for you depends on your knife and your preferences. Most honing rods are made of stainless steel because it's easy to manufacture, cheap for both the maker and consumer, and is a good material for most knives. Less common but still used often are diamond and ceramic steels. Diamond honing rods utilize coarse, hard diamond particles to take microscopic metal filaments off the blade. This is great for reviving very dull blades or doing a few quick passes to maintain your knife, but since it does take some material off, it might not be best if you’re looking just to realign. Ceramic is a material known for its extreme hardness, easily pushing blades back into place. But ceramic’s hardness means it's incredibly brittle and prone to breaking. All three have advantages and disadvantages, and which one is best depends on what type of knife you have and what you ultimately want your steel to do.

  • What is the best length of honing steel?

    You’ll want a steel at least two inches longer than your knife, but three or four is ideal. Most steels on the market are around the 12-inch mark, so this is great for 8-inch chef’s knives, but if you have a larger blade, opt for a longer one. For larger knives, 14 inches is about the upper limit; any larger will be unwieldy and difficult to store.

Our Expertise

Nick DeSimone has years of professional cooking experience. They take knife care very seriously and have spent hours of their time honing their knives. Nick also spoke to several chefs who use honing steels daily to get their insider opinions.

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